Language Access

Alaska Literacy Program's Language Access Plan

Why it Matters

"A language access plan can help ensure that an organization provides high quality and appropriate language services. A language access plan can also help ensure that an organization’s staff members are aware of what to do when an individual with limited English proficiency needs assistance."

- from the Guide to Developing a Language Access Plan, by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)


Language Access Plan resources:
from the Migration Policy Institute (

Language Access Policies and Practices
Legal Requirements to Provide Language Access

1. Plain Language

The most important thing we do is communicate in plain and simple English with our students.

Each quarter we see an extreme diversity of languages, more than 50 languages represented in any quarter. With ten or more new languages the next quarter. It is not feasible to translate into every language or have an interpreter for each language.

Our first goal is to communicate in a simple way with any client. This is the lowest barrier we can provide and it works well with our staff who are experienced in communicating with beginning English Language Learners (ELLs) in and out of the classroom.

Learn how to simplify at PlainLanguage.Gov

2. Diverse Staff
    + extra time

Our diverse staff are able to communicate in 10 languages and many have firsthand experiences to help them personally relate to our clients.

Another important principle followed by ALP staff is to slow down! Clients with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) may have the words they need to communicate, but it may take them longer to say them out loud. Have patience to communicate effectively with LEP clients, and provide extra time for appointments and meetings.

Meet ALP Staff

3. Interpreter Services

When plain language isn't enough, ALP uses a phone-based subscription-style interpreter service called Language Link (Language.Link). Our subscription came with posters and flyers advertising the service with translated "point to your language" statements we hang in common areas.

How it works:
 - There are 2 ways to use the phone interpreter. One is with the client there with you in person with only the interpreter on the phone, the other is in a 3-way call where everyone is separate and communicating by phone.

 - ALP staff call the Language Link number, provide our private business code and their department code.

 - Then request the language needed and indicate whether they need a 3-way call or if the client is there with them.

 - Wait to be connected to an on-call interpreter.


4. Translation Services

ALP has worked with local translators to translate documents for projects. For this we use Alaska Institute for Justice's Language Interpreter Center. An example of our partnership is our Peer Leader Navigator Kid's Language Activity Book regarding infectious disease prevention measures.

We have also helped students to translate their important documents like diplomas and certifications / credentials to receive equivalency credits for US employment and university requirements. This can be a grueling process!

We have worked with World Education Services (WES) and national translation services like US Language Services to accomplish these goals.

Tips for Ensuring Translation Quality (